Posts Tagged With: Fukui

Sunday Putters Around Fukui – Matt’s Trip To Japan

On Sunday I kidnapped Matt for a day of relaxing puttering around Fukui. I had the whole day pretty much planned out, all he had to do was get in the car.  It’s ok though, I promise I was a nice kidnapper, I fed him and entertained him!

First up, since he was craving veggies (and I’m a thoughtful kidnapper) I took Matt to my favourite lunch spot Veg Yard. He was a pretty happy captive when the 9-dish assortment came out; he really enjoyed his healthy feast.

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After that we drove out to the Echizen Pottery Village where a big festival was going on. All the local potters of Fukui come out to set up a booth and sell their beautiful goods twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. I reeeeeally wanted to go, so I was lucky Matt wanted to go too.

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We ended up having a great time perusing! Matt hunted high and low for a beautiful set of cups for his girlfriend back home. They are both tea fanatics like me. This photo doesn’t do them justice, but it’s the only one I got.  I really liked them too! They were white with gold piping down the sides. photo-3

I resisted temptation when we came to this stall, which I’m still proud about. I loved this white pottery, it was so smooth and the colour reminded me of high quality vanilla ice cream with flecks of real vanilla bean inside. IMG_5051Eventually we felt a bit of pottery-overload and the tarmac was SO unbelievably hot we called it quits. Matt proudly carried out his purchase, I proudly carried out nothing! (Trust me on that being a first in the 3 years I’ve been here…)

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Matt couldn’t come to Fukui without seeing the Echizen Kaigan coast. It’s one of the most beautiful areas of Fukui with its craggy cliffs and beautiful view of the Japan Sea. We nipped into Cafe Mare for a coffee buzz and a little cheesecake pick-me-up (an all-time-favourite dessert on Matt’s part) before exploring some of the cliffs. IMG_5077 IMG_5059 IMG_5058I was the happiest little clam in Fukui that day getting to show my little brother around my favourite stomping grounds! That’s one very genuine, glee-filled smile right there folks, nothing but pure joy and happiness!

Stay tuned! Next post is our adventures in Kanazawa!

 

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For Fukui’s Sake! – Matt’s Trip To Japan

Most Japan travel guide books say there’s little to do in Fukui, the place in Japan that I call home. I disagree and was determined to prove the boys and that Lonely Plant book wrong! I lured my brother and his friend Tim here, to this rural little middle-of-no-where-town, a place definitely off the well-beaten tourist track so they could have a few unique experiences!

Tim could only stay for a day before heading back to Tokyo for his flight, so Matt and I were determined to do all the best and coolest things we could while he was here. To kick things off, after I finished work at noon and picked the boys up from the train station, we met my friend Tomomi. She had kindly arranged for a very fun hands-on activity for the boys: soba making with a national soba master!IMG_0159 IMG_0154

Soba noodles (そば) are a type of Japanese noodle made from buckwheat. It’s served in a variety of ways, my personal favourite being “The Fukui Way” with sauce poured all over and grated daikon radish piled on high.  Fukui’s very famous for its soba noodles and you can immediately distinguish Fukui’s soba noodles apart from other areas’ soba because of it’s purple hue. You’re going to have to trust me they taste a lot better than they look!IMG_0152

The man who taught us is a personal friend of Tomomi’s and it was such an honour to be invited into his own house’s workshop for a private lesson! Making soba is tricky but with patience and lots of hard work the boys were able to transform their soba flour into noodles.IMG_0118 IMG_0119 IMG_0127 IMG_0128 IMG_0125

The coolest part of making soba is getting to use giiiiinormous knives to cut the dough into noodles.  IMG_0140 IMG_0134 IMG_0142 IMG_0143 IMG_0147

Hands down the best part of making soba is the noodle feast afterwards! Matt, Tim and I joked about the adorable duck Mr. Ping from Kung Fu Panda; we all will be having the “noodle dream” for a while, he would be so proud. Tomomi laughed because Matt and Tim couldn’t stop plotting how to open a soba restaurant in Calgary, they were convinced it would be a hit.IMG_0153 IMG_0151 IMG_0149IMG_0156After our soba-making lesson, we nipped over to Tomomi’s house for tea and scones. The boys really enjoyed meeting my infamous friend. Matt’s being hearing me talk about this “Tomomi character” (as he called her) for 3 years and was dying to meet her. I honestly can’t even begin to describe how amazing of a person she is. The only way Matt could know why I love her so much was to meet her in person. Tomomi stuffed us like turkeys on Thanksgiving with her home-made scones and delicious jam.

After tea time with Tomomi it was time for a much needed nap for our 2 heroes (3 if you include me!); they needed to rest up for the main event: Karaoke Fukui-style.

I invited several close friends out for dinner at an izakaya-style restaurant (a place you share lots of little dishes with people). The real reason we went to that restaurant was it has a 680 yen nomihoudai drinking option. The boys were in absolute shock that there was a place in Japan they could drink as much beer/wine/sake/whatever as they wanted for a whole hour and only pay about $7. Matt kept checking and re-checking this fact with me. I don’t blame him, it sounds too good to be true after every bar in Osaka was charging 600 yen for a single beer! Fukui’s the place to live boys, the sushi’s fresh and life’s cheaper out here!Fukui izakayaphoto-2

After dinner we meandered over to my favourite karaoke place: Rent-A-Car Karaoke. A car rental and karaoke centre run together…it sounds strange I know but it’s cheap (we each spent only 700yen for 3 hours of singing!), easy to get reservations for, and right across the street from a kick-ass nomihoudai restaurant. Win-win-win!

We all sang the night away, until about 1:30 in the morning! In my opinion the best songs are always the Disney songs, everybody knows and loves them, so I put plenty in throughout the night. The boys thought it was cheesy at first, but when “Let It Go” from Frozen came on, I noticed that Matt and Tim couldn’t resist howling away like the rest of us ALTs.

Finally it was time for us to head home to my apartment so we stumbled drunkly into a taxi. Both I and the taxi driver chuckled as the boys continued to sing long after the party was over and the Rent-A-Car lights faded from the rear-view mirror into the distance.

The last thing I said before we all passed out was, “And that boys is why Fukui is awesome!”

Categories: Life in Japan, Lifestyle | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Golden Week Adventures

Golden Week is one of the biggest and craziest holidays in Japan as it’s the longest vacation period of the year for many Japanese jobs. The result is chaos and meyhem nationwide across Japan. It seems everyone in Japan is traveling at the same time, which they pretty much are! Even tiny little rural prefectures like my beloved Fukui aren’t safe!  People are everywhere, the lineups go out the doors, restaurants flat out turn you down if you don’t have a reservation, and everything is expensive. 

I planned to do what I do best: hermit. I had such grand Golden Week plans of doing nothing more than lounging around in bed, baking and cleaning my apartment before my brother’s big visit. Very quiet and boring I know. But that’s exactly why Golden Week is awesome; it’s the one time of the year in Japan where I have a lot of time off work and zero desire to do anything outside of my apartment other than merely enjoy the beautiful weather. It’s nice to have an excuse to do nothing!

Fate had other things in store for me, and I never ever saw it coming.

DAY 1  – SOCIAL BUTTERFLY BY DAY, WILD THING BY NIGHT 

Golden Week kicked off for me with a trip to the Echizen Washi Festival. Fukui’s famous for it’s handmade paper and this craft diva couldn’t wait for the market area full of exquisite paper at dirt cheap prices. Sooooomebody was a happy little shopper by the end! Best part, my 800yen ($8) shopping spree definitely didn’t break the bank! Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 1.34.59 PMAfter that I went and had a lovely barbecue down by the river with my friends because Lizzy’s dad was in town and we all wanted to say hello. It was a little chilly, but it’s amazing what good friends and company do to warm you up! Time flew by and next thing we knew it was almost 11pm and we were yawning with almost every sentence. We said our goodbyes and I drove off to my bed…or so I thought.

It turns out there’s this tiny little club called Salsa Lab where the Fukui locals go to salsa! I had never been before, but had heard it was a lot of fun. A group of people from the barbecue were going and convinced me it was the perfect time to try it out. I will be perfectly honest, I was a horrific dancer!  My friends should consider themselves very lucky to still have all their toes, but despite having no idea what I was doing it was a blast! Crazy cats that we are, things got a little tipsy so after that and we decided to head to Fukui’s most popular club Church until about 4am. (Isn’t that just the most ironic name ever for a club? I still can’t get over the irony.) I still am in shock at my inner wild child drinking that night and definitely paid the price the following morning.

DAY 2 – TURKEY DINNER EXTRAVAGANZA

Fate once again had other plans, this time in the form of a surprise visit from a faraway friend. My friend Tomomi had asked me to teach her how to cook a turkey, and although I thought it was a little strange to have a turkey dinner in May I figured it was a weekend I would have lots of time on my hands so why not?  Plus this is turkey we’re talking about, no one says no to turkey!

I was so nervous walking out the door that morning, the destiny of two turkeys (and therefore the entire turkey dinner!) was resting on my rather inexperienced shoulders. When the window of Tomomi’s car rolled down, I was running through my mental checklist for the day frantically making sure I had everything I’d need so it took me a few seconds to process what I was seeing. There was already someone in the passenger seat, my seat! Wait a second..I knew that person…but how? Sweet holy macaroni! REBECCA!?!hey bex!

My friend Bex lives in Shizuoka, about a 6-hour train ride away from Fukui, but had decided to come to Fukui for Golden Week and surprise me. Mission accomplished, I was stunned beyond belief! That second turkey suddenly made a lot more sense because damn can that little lady eat! 
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I’d only cooked one baby turkey before this weekend and I was no expert, yet everyone looked to me for directions so I put on a tough face. The only time my “big-girl face” faltered was at the thought of shoving my hand inside that turkey to get the gizzards, BLEH! I’m still squeamish about stuff like that, but can you really blame me? I redeemed myself however, when I made everyone laugh with my hilarious turkey dance and yoga demonstration.

Thank heavens Zach showed up after we put them in the oven. He’s a total pro at cooking and unlike me never succumbs to pressure. While the turkeys were roasting away we busy bees made mashed potatoes, bacon-zucchini-mushroom risotto, pumpkin cheesecake and strawberry rhubarb pie.  Once all the goodies were finished and the turkeys golden brown and cooked to near perfection we sat down to our feast. It was a night full of laughter, good food and ever greater company. Zach’s pumpkin cheesecake was simply divine and don’t worry I’ll be begging for his secret recipe very soon!
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We left Tomomi’s stuffed as turkeys and I fell into a turkey-coma not long after getting home.

 

DAY 3 – SPONTANEOUS TRIP TO KANAZAWA

Thank heavens I hadn’t made any plans for Golden Week. Bex’s visit came as a huge shock, but luckily I was free the next day to go with her up to Kanazawa. So much for cleaning my apartment! We hopped on the train at far too early an hour for my taste and were soon strolling down the higashichaya district. We decided to try our hand at gold leaf application as it’s one of Kanazawa’s local craft specialties. I decorated a pair of chopsticks and Bex chose a small plate. The end result was pretty neat if I do say so myself! I’ll definitely be taking my brother here it was so much fun!

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 3.00.28 PMThe heavy rain eventually got to us, and we were feeling a little sorry for ourselves, so we decided to hit up the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s my favourite place it Kanazawa but I had been hoping to avoid it if possible as I knew the Golden Week crowds would be nuts. It was insanely busy but Bex and her crazy antics kept me in a good mood. One of my favourite photos of the whole day was our “rebel selfie” in the no-camera zone. 
modern art museum2selfie We had a blast checking out the new exhibits along with a few of our favourite old exhibits too. My favourite new exhibit was this metal structure you waked inside and felt like you were inside a geode or a silver kaleidoscope. The real winner of this modern art museum though, unequivocally is the Leandro’s Pool exhibit.21st century museum of contemporary artkanazawa modern art museum leandro's pool

It’s always so amazing to be inside this exhibit looking up at the sky through the water, feeling like you’re inside a giant swimming pool! I’ve seen it at least 5 times now and I still think it’s the bees knees.

We hurried back to Fukui in time to watch the latest Game of Thrones episode with my GOT group. My apartment complex friends and I are all obsessed with the series, and always rally together Monday evening so Bex had to take part. It’s a good thing she’s an even bigger fan than us.

DAY 4 – SEEKING OUT SUNSHINE

I dropped Bex off the next morning and drove up to Sabae for the Azalea Festival at Nishiyama Park. I had heard a lot of hype about this festival, but had always avoided it as Sabae is insanely busy to drive to during this time and parking is a legendary nightmare. Golden Week strikes again.

As it was my last year though I was determined to see it. After seeing the azalea flowers in all their glory I can testify that it really is worthy of all the hype. The whole park was a sea of purple, pink and white flowers. I lathered up on sunscreen and wandered around happily.IMG_3792 Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 10.25.11 AM IMG_3806 IMG_3826photo 2-2After the Azalea Festival I drove out to the coast for a few hours on the beach. I’m trying to get a head start on a tan seeing as summer’s coming whether I want it to or not. I was the only person there and it was wonderful listening to nothing other than the sound of waves and with only my book for company. Peace and relaxation!photo 1-3A little peckish I decided to brave Cafe Mare. It was really busy, but because the restaurant was prepared for the hoards of people flocking to their beautiful cafe, and because I missed the lunch time rush by showing up around 3:30 I didn’t have to wait too long! It was a lovely end to an unexpectedly busy holiday weekend.Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 4.27.11 PM

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Let The Music Fill Your Soul: Ikeda Music Concert 2014

When my friend Lizzy first told me she would be have a small koto recital I was all aboard. I whipped out my calendar, and saved the date February 22 using a pen! There was nothing that could possibly come up that would make me miss it because I’m a firm believer that when you promise someone you’ll be there don’t cancel, not to mention she’s my bestie and I of course wanted to be there to support her.

The koto is a traditional Japanese instrument and Lizzy has been learning to play it for about 5 months now. Her teacher is incredibly talented and one of the sweetest people I have had the pleasure of meeting in Japan. I’m so proud that despite her already busy schedule, Lizzy was able to make time for her Japanese dream before we both leave this summer.

The funny thing is that when she mentioned a small music recital it brought back my own memories of piano recitals that were stuffy, more than a little boring, and filled only with the families or friends of the performers. I always enjoy Japanese music though, so I figured, what the hey. The actual recital was totally different than anything I had imagined. IMG_2631 To begin with it was out in the middle of nowhere. I drove a car full of friends for an hour to get to Ikeda, a tiny little town in Fukui Prefecture that I didn’t even know existed. The next interesting fact, was that the concert was to be held in a giant house.IMG_2441All in all, this “recital” felt more like a group of good friends all jammin’ out together and everyone getting their own moment in the spotlight. We chatted, most people drank, and everyone tucked into the food. The most interesting food by far was the inoshishi nabe, or in English, wild boar hot pot stew. IMG_2450 IMG_2458 IMG_2443I was pretty excited. I always love the opportunity to try rare specialties of a region and it was my first time to eat inoshishi. To be perfectly honest, I doubt I will ever consume inoshishi again. I enjoyed the first bowl, or at least the first half of my bowl. Ultimately though, and unfortunately for me, the gamey flavor and extra chewiness of the inoshishi was a turn off.   To make matters worse that smell permeated the whole house, and was inescapable. After a while you stopped noticing it. But when I got home (at 2am I might add!) rather than crawl exhausted into bed I instead couldn’t strip myself of my stinky clothes, throw them into the laundry and dash into a shower quick enough! You know I don’t like a smell when I’m willing to do laundry at 2 am.   I woke up the next morning, and then proceeded to strip the sheets off my bed because they too now stank of inoshishi.

Luckily for me, it was a potluck style event and I was able to nibble on some other goodies throughout the night. I was peckish but I definitely didn’t starve.  I happily allowed the music make me forget my hunger, because trust me, the music is what you come for! It was all Fukui locals performing, and they were great! There something for everyone with a huge variety of styles. IMG_2471I particularly enjoyed the group The Grasshoppers Plays which was lively and very instrumental with a tuba, oboe, guitar, vocals and several other instruments I don’t know the names of. The lead guitarist jumped around the stage just like a grasshopper while he played, and the energy with which they played their songs had me smiling and clapping along very quickly. I particularly loved their rendition of a song from the movie Howl’s Moving Castle, which is one of my favourite Studio Ghibli movies. IMG_2473 IMG_2481Another thing I never expected was a Japanese country group to perform! Much to many of my friends shock and amazement I love country music. It must come from living in Calgary for most of my life, affectionately nicknamed “Cow Town.” In case you don’t know, Calgary is home to one of the world’s largest rodeos every summer. This group of older Japanese men definitely channeled some country spirit, one dressed in jeans and red flannel, a second in a Canadian tuxedo with a large shinny silver belt buckle, and the best of all was the guy wearing red flannel and jean overalls! It totally made my night! IMG_2504 IMG_2501 IMG_2490 IMG_2503 Good times, good times! We had a short intermission and when the show started up again it was a cute family style reggae group. The mom was the singer, her children sat right next to her and played small drums themselves, and other family members played the guitar and drums. The songs were pretty adorable, about cooking with tomatoes and other cute themes. Even cuter though, was her little boy playing the drums. I couldn’t take my eyes of him he was so adorable! IMG_2549 IMG_2550 IMG_2528 IMG_2525Finally it was the moment my friends and I had been waiting all night for! Lizzy and her koto group were the final act. She and her teacher played 5 songs together, with her teacher singing the words in Japanese.  She sounded amazing! I was so happy I had come to support her. IMG_2612 IMG_2608During the final song was one of my favourite memories of the night. Another boy Cian and I had decided to surprise Lizzy with flowers after the concert, so I had smuggled a small bouquet into the event (I don’t think, Lizzy ever saw the flowers, I was a real ninja). As Lizzy was playing her last song, and her teacher singing beautiful lyrics which were all about flowers on a mountain, Cian leans over and whispers “Jessie, where are the flowers?” For a second, I was a little confused why he had asked me at that second to translate the song, but replied anyways as I know how frustrating it can be to not understand what’s going on when it’s all in a foreign language. “They’re on the mountain,” I whispered back. The look he gave me was priceless. He had meant our bouquet for Lizzy, but had asked me specifically at the perfect point for me to misinterpret him and think he meant the song lyrics. We both burst out laughing when we realized what was going on.

After Lizzy finished her songs, her teacher performed once more with another student. The last performance of the night was Lizzy’s teacher herself. She is one of the most celebrated koto players in Japan, and has actually been flown to Europe this week to play a concert. It was so beautiful, the intricate music pulled at my heart, and not a single person spoke. IMG_2632After the concert was over there was a lot of photo taking. Everyone wanted a photo with these lovely ladies.  IMG_2635 Once things quieted down slightly Cian and I found a moment to spoil our golden star. I think she really liked her flowers!IMG_2652Then it was time to get the party started. IMG_2669 IMG_2683So that Lizzy could fully savor her evening in the spotlight I had generously volunteered to be the designated driver which meant no alcohol for me. I enjoyed myself regardless! Who could fail to be entertained when you are friends with lovable goofballs like these! IMG_2658 IMG_2678 My “I’m sober and completely ok with that” face.

Soon with much prompting the ALTs got involved with the after concert jammin session.  We sang a couple songs “Country Roads”, which is always super popular with Japanese people, and then 2 songs by The Beatles, “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be.” This was a great decision as we had almost everyone singing along with us pretty soon, and endeared all of us to the locals.  jamminShortly after midnight, this little Cinderella fled home to go to bed. Luckily for me, Cian and I both wanted to be home by about 1am; he for a rugby game, me because I’m a granny at heart.
I’m really glad I was able to go. It was something radically different than what I had expected, in the best way possible. I felt truly at ease at the Ikeda Music Concert, everyone was so kind, and even with my limited Japanese I enjoyed talking with many people. I only wish I knew more small, local events like these that I could go to. It would be wonderful!

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Supuya – My Ode to the Fukui Russian Restaurant – すうぷ屋

In my opinion winter is a great time of year! The snow transforms the world into a glittering, magical world and snow bunnies like me get to hit the slopes for some quality snowboarding.

It’s a quiet time, perfect for letting your inner hermit rejoice and run rampant, if curling up with a good book, steaming mug of tea, and blanket in a granny-style rocking chair can ever really be called “running rampant”. Winter’s  the only season where it is perfectly acceptable to hibernate like a big old brown bear in the warmth and sanctuary of your apartment. Finally, and most importantly, in an enormous foodie’s world (like mine),  it’s an excuse to indulge in piping hot comfort food!

In search of quality comfort food I and my good friend Tomomi headed to Supuya, Fukui’s one and only Russian restaurant yesterday and indulged ourselves with some of the best comfort food I’ve consumed in years! It was pretty difficult to track down but thanks to Tomomi I finally found it!

My coworker John has raved about this restaurant’s piroshky ever since I first met him 2 and a half years ago, it was high time I finally went! I was very excited to go for lunch because Supuya offered a fabulous lunch set for the bargain price of 1,500yen which included a piroshky, borscht soup and tsuboyaki (forgive me, I don’t know the Russian name for this item!).

Walking past other people eating the food I was dying to try was sheer torture. I couldn’t order fast enough!

The first item served was a piping hot piroshky, and my coworker was right it was simply to die for. If I ever am feeling particularly, exceptionally gluttonous in the future I could easily see myself coming back to Supuya and ordering 5…or 10…of these beautiful pieces of fried dough stuffed with meat sauce. I might die of a heart attack soon after, but I’d probably die very, very happy.photo(2)Next came the borscht soup. Borscht was the only Russian food I had ever tried before, and the hot pink soup I had imagined in my mind never came. This, my darling foodies, is what authentic borscht looks like apparently.  I had no idea.

It was a good thing (for my waistline) the piroshky was followed by such a healthy soup, the subtle flavors of the vegetable medley in this soup sang together in perfect harmony.  I can’t wait to try making my own sometime soon (keep your eyes peeled I might experiment this weekend!) supuya2 supuya1While I do love fried goodness, my personal favorite comfort food has always been soups and stews. In the cold of Canadian winter, there is nothing quite like a steaming bowl of stew, it always seems to give you a little hug of encouragement from inside your stomach. Needless to say therefore, I adored the borscht.

After the borscht came the pièce de résistance…. supuya3 supuyaI only know what this is called in Japanese: tsuboyaki. (‘tsubo‘ refers to a ceramic bowl that you cook something in, and ‘yaki‘ means grilled or baked.)  If anyone knows the name of this delicious Russian dish please enlighten me!

What is it you ask? It’s stew or chowder served in a ceramic bowl, which is then covered with a piece of bread or pastry, and baked all together, bowl and all, in a large oven until the bread is golden and fluffy.  At Supuya, with this set lunch, you could choose the flavor of your tsuboyaki. They had about 8 choices, I chose beef stew and Tomomi chose the salmon, scallop and spinach chowder option. Both were amazing! supuya5After these 3 dishes we were so stuffed we felt like turkeys on Thanksgiving, in the best way possible. However, in our world there is always room for tea. Thanks to a fortuitous accident I got to try another classic Russian speciality: Russian tea.

On the menu it was listed as chai, both Tomomi and I adore chai tea, so we both ordered that expecting Indian style chai tea…..nope! What came out instead were two mugs of dark, clear amber tea and a little bowl of strawberry jam! russianteaWhatever I had just been served definitely was not chai, and it had never occurred to me to put strawberry jam in my tea, so I was a little confused at first. Once Tomomi explained the mix-up though, I was pretty happy because I always love trying new types of tea! It was good, and if you’re looking for a classic Russian drink to go along with your Russian meal, it’s something I’d encourage you to try too!

Supuya Information:

  • Japanese name: すうぷ屋
  • Phone Number: 0776-34-2099 *I would highly recommend making a reservation as it gets pretty busy!*
  • Address: 4 Chome-1-14 Kamogawara, Fukui, Fukui Prefecture 918-8057
  • Parking: There is a limited amount of parking out front.
  • Hint: If you’re driving along the main road, look up the steep concrete embankment and you’ll see the back side of a large brown wooden house with a Russian flag and large windows nestled in what appears to be a residential neighborhood.
Categories: Life in Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Missing The Mountains: Journey to Aobayama

Back in Canada I used to do quite a bit of hiking. What can I say, I was a lucky child! I had an outdoors enthusiast for a father and lived only an hour away from some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. When I was growing up the fresh air of the Rocky Mountains was like mother’s milk and every weekend I was excited to scamper around in the vast wild yonder. I was a real wild-ling of a child, my poor parents.

Since moving to Japan I’ve been on several noteworthy hikes, such as Mt. Fuji, but that’s a nightmare I’d rather not reflect on (I may or may not have been caught in a typhoon on top of the mountain with no shelter).  Yet, despite my efforts last year, the hikes I did were few and far to infrequent to keep a Canadian-blooded girl content.  After being spoiled for the majority of my childhood, with amazing hikes that were practically at my fingertips, I will be the first to admit that it took FAR to long to get my butt in gear and get out to some of Fukui’s hiking spots.  A constant nagging at my heart recently however, made me long for a mountain adventure.

Golden Week with it’s 4-day holiday weekend to the rescue! This weekend’s adventure to Mt. Aoba 青葉山 (In Japanese: Aobayama, “yama” means mountain) was definitely one of my favourite hikes in Japan so far. Aobayama straddles the border between the prefectures Fukui and Kyoto.  The summit of Aobayama offers a sweeping view of the Wakasa coastline which makes the climb well worth your trouble.  With its gentle slopes and resemblance to Japan’s most famous mountain, the locals have nicknamed Mt. Aoba “Wakasa’s Mt. Fuji.”

The day dawned sunny and full of the promise for good weather, I awoke from my slumber super early, guzzled some much-needed coffee and headed out to pick up my friends. By 7:30am my friends Lizzy, Kenny, Francisco and I were nestled in my tiny car and on our way to the southern-most area of Fukui where we were rewarded with a spectacular hike. It was challenging, exciting, and had not just one but TWO beautiful lookout points!

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Peace and serenity in the mountains

I was as giddy as a kid on Christmas and had a pretty big smile for the majority of our outing.  Lizzy couldn’t stop laughing because it seemed like being in the mountains brought out my inner-Canadian and practically every sentence I said seemed to end with the classic Canadian “eh”!

One of the coolest parts of this hike were the ropes.  At the tricky & steep parts there were these enormous ropes to help you scale that mountain. IMG_9318

We all felt pretty intense using these ropes until we stumbled upon the most pathetic little rope of all….It was about 2 feet long and really wasn’t good for very much…IMG_9324

Up to the top of the first lookout was a pretty steady incline with bits of intermittent scrambling up over rocks and tree roots. So, for anyone hoping to do this hike, I would definitely recommend proper hiking shoes. It’s possible to do it in sneakers, but I was very grateful for a little extra ankle support. IMG_9335

Poor Lizzy, I am always grateful for my long legs when I see what short people have to put up with when hiking. She was such a trooper, even though some of the “stairs” were almost half her height!

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Japanese hikes are so considerate! This one even had REAL stairs lol!

As we neared the top of the first peak the sea started to play peek-a-boo with us.  With a budding sense of excitement we raced the final bit excited for the lookout. We weren’t disappointed… IMG_9350 This is always my favourite part of hiking…I get to the view point, shut my eyes for a second, take a deep breath and open them. I then let that moment of perfect awe wash over me as I admire the view.  I have to say, it feels pretty good! IMG_9357

BREATHTAKING! 

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Group Shot! Don’t tumble backwards….it’s a long looong drop…

IMG_9351Isn’t this just the bees knees!

Now, let me explain something. I’m not a competitive person. I’ve always been the “I want everyone to have fun” type, but when I see little Japanese grandmas being more kick-ass awesome than me, I feel a wee bit jealous…. surprisingly enough, it happens quite often in Japan. The obaa-chans of Japan are tiny little old women who look delicate as flowers but are actually fierce as sabertooth tigers. This little old lady takes the cake! We opted to climb down the stairs from the view point…she decided to scale the wall down using a rope we didn’t know existed! She is my hero, I want to be like her when I’m 70!

IMG_9361After the first peak we decided to tramp over to the second peak for lunch. Nothing like a little bit more adventure to get that appetite  going!

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First came the cave of wonders…

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Next came the ridge of doom. Plummeting death to the left, plummeting death to the right makes walking a thin line no problem….right?

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I definitely recommend this hike in Fukui! It’s a blast!  After lunch we headed back the way we came with lots of fun rope scaling going down.

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Looking out over this panorama I knew with absolute certainty that I couldn’t be happier in that moment than I was.  For the first time in ages I was living in the moment.  I didn’t want to be anywhere else, with anyone else, doing anything else or seeing anything else. I belonged in that exact moment in time to that place.

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I always feel the most at peace when hiking, something many people whom I know don’t really seem to understand.  After all, how can pulsing adrenaline in your system, being all sweaty, feeling tired and pushing your body to the limits bring on a sense of calm? It seems like it would do the exact opposite, ne?

I think the closest answer I can come to articulating however, is that it’s on the mountain that I feel like I’m the person I want to be. I like this side of myself. I like the girl who challenges herself, who’s optimistic about what lies ahead, who pushes her body to its physical limits and actually enjoys that physical pain. I like being the kind of girl who spends quality bonding time with her friends, who gives her undivided attention to what she’s doing, who loves natures, who takes joy in the little things in life, and (perhaps most importantly) who isn’t afraid to take risks in the name of adventure. She is the person I wish I could be all the time. Thus, it’s when I hike that I come the closest to who I truly am and finding inner peace “hanging out” with that girl.

As Lucille Ball once said “It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.” Cheers, and here’s hoping for more hiking adventures in the near future!

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DIRECTIONS (from Fukui City):

  • Take the Hokuriku Express Highway south from Fukui City to Tsuruga.
  • Transfer off the highway at this point to Route 27. 
  • Take Route 27 south through Obama and Wakasa.  Once you reach Wakasa Bay start paying attention for signs to “Matsuno-dera temple”.
  • At Route 564 take a right and drive until you reach Matsuno Temple.
  • There is a small parking lot there which you can park at for 400yen.
  • Walk up the stairs to the temple, behind the temple to the right hand side is the start of the hike.

Approximate driving time: 2.5-3 hours

Cost: For my k-car it took a full tank of gas (3,000 yen) plus a (950 yen) toll both ways on the Hokuriku highway (Sabae-Tsuruga).

I hope this information helps hikers in Fukui in the future! Enjoy!

 

Categories: Life in Japan | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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